The Daily Aztec - San Diego University
Anthony Berteaux, Senior Staff Columnist
November 20, 2014
Earlier this summer, in light of a dismal sexual assault audit conducted on schools across the nation, I wrote a column praising Senate Bill 967 — famously known as the “yes means yes” law. I praised it for defining sexual consent as an “affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement” between parties involved through the verbal and non-verbal insinuation of consent. At the time, I applauded its language for including continuous consent, as well as affirmative consent. However, after this new law has been used to justify judicial rulings based on ambiguous proof, I’m here to debunk my original stance on this issue.
While the mass criticism regarding the negligence toward sexual assault reports by college administrators is justified, the implementation and due process involving SB 967 is problematic when it comes to the application of legally ambiguous consent to campus judicial review. This definition of consent violates individual rights to fair and just trials —better known as the Fifth Amendment.
SB 967’s fatal flaw in defining affirmative consent lies in categorizing any sexual act without a perceived verbal or non-verbal “yes” as sexual assault. However, this definition is out of touch with the reality of situations that call for consent. Both verbal and non-verbal expressions can be misunderstood in the process, leading to false accusations.
What it really boils down to is conflicting definitions of what consent really looks like, which is subjective to every sexual relationship.